Lake Washington High swimmers enjoy having a laugh, smiling and unleashing the noise when it’s cheering time.
But when the Kangs plop into the pool to prepare for their events, they take on a serious demeanor: “Right behind the blocks, putting your goggles on, you’re just like, ‘Yeah, let’s go!” said an excited junior Katie Cross as sophomore Amelia Hammer nodded her head in approval prior to a recent practice.
After notching a solid swim, it’s back to supporting their teammates and hanging out and having a blast with new and old friends. It’s all about achieving a fine balance in order to make the most of their 3A KingCo dual-meet season, which will then dip into districts and the premier state championships.
Thus far at press time, the Kangs have qualified their 200-yard medley relay and 200-yard freestyle relay for state, and Cross (100-yard backstroke) and Hammer (50- and 100-yard freestyles) are set for state.
Head coach Dave Hale said the strong LW squad — which notched its first ever undefeated dual-meet season with a 7-0 league record — is already ahead of last year’s pace and is packed with experienced high-school and club swimmers.
The 200 MR nailed a school-record 1:53.31 state mark this season at press time with Hammer, Cross, Brie Yeh and Helen Wu on board. With Charlotte Conze and Robin Ying in the relay last year, the Kangs hammered out a then school-record time of 1:53.90 (they hit a 1:52 at state but were disqualified because of an illegal turn, according to Hale).
The 200 free relay of Courtney Cross, Conze, Jade Foltenyi and Hammer blasted out a time of 1:43.44 this season.
“They just got excited last year as the season went on,” Hale said of the 200 MR. “We talk about actually swimming their best and performing their best in the postseason. So as the dual-meet season goes on, it gets a little more intense, a little more exciting, a little more pressure… we like to say positive pressure,” added Hale, noting that the relayers vowed to swim even faster this season.
On all the LW relays, whichever swimmers are the fastest each week earn their spots, and the relays can be interchangeable each time out, said Hale, adding that it’s part of their culture to do it this way and everyone supports each other.
Hammer said the key to a good relay is “Everyone just having a really good bond and knowing that we can do it and being able to rely on your teammates.” She added that the LW swimmers are strong in all the strokes.
The sophomore speedster has overcome shoulder problems from last year and has added tons of yardage, training and confidence to her arsenal.
“I came out of a really good club season, so now I’m all hyped for high school season,” said Hammer, who also swims for the Pro Sports Club in Bellevue.
Hammer took eighth at state in the 50 free last year in 24.70 (she hit 24.48 in prelims) and nailed a 54.49 in the 100 free at state. Her top times this year at press time were 25.20 in the 50 free and 54.75 in the 100 free.
Katie Cross is back in the pool for LW after taking a year off from high school swimming to focus on other things. As a freshman in 2016, she zoomed to fifth at state in the 100 back with a school-record time of 58.06. She’s hit a 59.14 this season at press time for a state-qualifying mark.
Last year, while swimming for the Bellevue Club (which she still does), “It was more of a year of focusing on my strokes and focusing on my technique, speed and all that good stuff. So then when I came back, I would be even better,” she said.
Hale said that Cross is a talented, hard-working athlete who is one of the top backstrokers in the state. Cross said mastering the underwater portion of the race is crucial in registering stellar times.
Cross likes to be loud. Whether it’s rooting for her teammates or driving to practice with her freshman sister and fellow swimmer Courtney. When the radio’s on, they love to belt out songs at the top of their lungs with the windows down, Katie laughs.
Come swim time during dual meets, the fun never stops and Katie is impressed with her teammates’ performances.
“I have so much confidence in the girls that I swim with and so much trust in them. Behind the blocks, I’m not super nervous or worried about what the outcome is gonna be because I know it’s gonna be great,” she said.